By Bella <email@example.com>
Submitted: April 2002
Summary: It's deep in the night in Metropolis when strange things happen.
Disclaimers: I don't have any legal hold on Lois and Clark. I'd like to thank my General Editor Wendy Richards for her assistance putting this piece into some shape.
At night in Metropolis the horror awakes and roams mercilessly the windy and deserted streets, looking for its victims. Dark clouds are chasing over the sky, covering time and again the big, full moon. In the Metpark owls call and the bats of the old ruin of the Church of the Lost Souls scan the surroundings on their sonic altimeter. Somewhere the light of a lonely candle shines on the yellowed pages of an old mystic book and…
Clark thrashed restlessly around in his bed. He was dreaming…
My name is James Judd. But my friends call me pound-cake. Probably because I hate them. I'm a private investigator, a private eye in Big Apple. I'm one in the mass of ex-cops who couldn't stand it anymore that every suspect they caught got released by clever legal eagles before they had even started to fill out the forms C129, F68a and b, B-G47 in triplicate, O1418 and H2. So I had quit city law enforcement and started my own investigation bureau. Especially after my wife had stripped me down to my underwear for maintenance. Fortunately my friend Tony had lent me half of his wardrobe.
Business was slow these days. It had been a whole week since my office saw another face than mine. It had been Fred, the janitor. He had given me the new ticket for the weekly lottery of the five spaces down in the parking lot. The elevators had been off again. He had wanted a glass of water after climbing up the 27 floors up to my office. The poor guy had been a bit winded. My offer for a cigarette he had declined.
Today I had already cleaned my gun, Betty, three times. I love to feel her black cool metal under my fingertips. I took my gun cleaner and pushed it slowly to and fro in her barrel. She's the only woman in my life, since I fired Velda. She makes the worst coffee east of the City of Angels and in a sentence with 50 letters 42 are always wrong. Why I had hired her in the first place…the devil knows. After taking care of Betty, I did the windows. Had the light grey of the wall always been this yellowish? I smoked too much. As I read the stock exchange section in my newspaper, my door opened.
"Are you Judd, the private investigator?"
I looked up to see the body that belonged to the purring voice. Immediately I forgot to call my broker Harry. It would probably cost me another fifty cents. But who cares about money, when a goddess steps into your office? Trailing my eyes slowly up her body, I saw a perfectly shaped pair of legs, that went up to her shoulders. And everything in between was a display of perfection as well. But the most amazing part were her eyes. Rich chocolaty like the mousse au chocolat my old lady, may she rest in peace, had always made for my birthday. Her lips were of the deepest cherry red. They made me curious about their true colour under the $2 lipstick. But I don't mix business with pleasure.
"Yes, I am. What can I do for you? Please, have a seat. Want a cigarette?"
I stood up and walked around to clean up my visitor's chair. The stack of old 'Times', socks, my gentleman's magazine, a packet of ammunition for Betty and a half eaten sandwich, I had sought for a week now, moved to my desk. Gracefully, the brunette beauty in the deep red costume sat down.
"Yes, thank you."
She took one out of the offered pack and put it into her bag.
"I don't smoke," she explained. "My name's Pussy Cat. That's my stage name. My parents christened me Myrtle Mae Hobclobber. I sing down at the River Club."
"The one that's owned by Two-shoes-Mahony? The guy who controls the South Side, killed at least Fat Joe and Toothpick Charlie and visits every Tuesday afternoon his old aunt Agatha at the 'Happy Old Days' retiring home? Six foot one, dishwater blond with a scar from his chin up to the left eye?"
"You know Francis?"
"No. Tell me, what leads you to me?"
"They say you're the best in business. I want you to find my stolen lottery ticket."
"I don't know yet. It's for the next week's game."
"Ah, I understand…no, I don't. Why should someone steal a ticket that could be a blank?"
"Well, on the back side I noted down the phone number of Ed Cornheimer."
"Who's Ed Cornheimer?"
"I don't know."
"You gonna help me?"
"Lady, you have to understand one thing: I'm not cheap. 50 a day, expenses extra. I will come this evening to the club. Start asking the right questions. Okay?"
After she had gone, I sat back in my chair and leant back. Smoking three packs, I spent the afternoon thinking about Pussy, her ticket and that I smoked too much.
Around nine o'clock I entered the River Club. At the door a row of bars in the cloakroom and attendants behind them awaited me. Smiling, they pointed up to the signs above their heads. 'Leave your Baseball bat here.' I opened my coat and handed it over and walked up to the next attendant. 'Leave your gun here'. Reluctantly, I left Betty. The next one read 'Leave your coat here.' I slipped out of my coat and got another number in exchange for it. The last sign told me 'You can leave your hat on.' So I left it on and stepped up to the bar and sat down.
"Long Island iced tea, please."
"With fresh lemon?" I read the hastily written question of the barkeeper.
"Yeah. But only from biological indisputable cultivation." I lit up a cigarette and picked up some peanuts. Must have a sore throat, I thought fleetingly.
I turned around to the stage, when the band began to play. I barely recognised Pussy under her yellow chicken costume. She sang and danced together with a lamb and a cow. I noticed immediately that there was a shark under the sheep's clothing. Watching Pussy brought back old childhood memories of Beebo from the Sesame Street and the simple joy of pulling out the legs of a fly slowly and one after the other. I lit up another cigarette and smiled, when Pussy stepped off the stage to join me after her performance.
"Has anybody ever told you that smoking is unhealthy from the statistical point of view?"
"Has anybody ever told you that telling this to a heavy smoker is unhealthy from the statistical point of view?" I shot back.
She pouted. Adorably so.
"So, have you already thought about who might be the thief? Or better, who knows you're gambling? And who knows who Ed Cornheimer is?"
"Normally I don't gamble. I don't believe in luck… Charlie, give me a scotch on the rocks… I only bought a ticket because of the $64,000 jackpot. To be able to settle down somewhere. Let's see, I told Toni, she's the lamb, Charlie here, and of cause Francis… thanks, Charlie. And about Ed Cornheimer… Charlie, do you know an Ed Cornheimer character?"
The silent barkeeper, Charlie, shook his head in denial.
"Only three suspects. Almost as little as in a TV series of 45 minutes with three commercial breaks. By the way, Charlie is the most silent bar keeper I've ever encountered in a club."
"Well, he's mute. Therapists' Union made trouble for unlicensed psycho analysis and counselling. Sorry, I have to get ready for my next entrance. Why don't you meet me backstage afterwards?"
I nodded and turned back to my drink and the mute Charlie. He looked at Pussy's retreating back. A slight swing in her hips. In his eyes I saw admiration in capital letters burned into them. Smoke still trailed up into the air. I was for a moment confused, but soon realised the smoke originated from my cigarette.
"Pussy says you'd known about her lottery ticket."
Charlie nodded. I decided on the frontal assault.
"It's been stolen. Did you take it?"
Charlie looked aghast and took pen and paper after I couldn't make any sense out of his wild gesticulations. I read 'No! I know how much Pussy wants to win. I could never do something to hurt her!'
I couldn't help but believe him. He wasn't that kind of man, with his faithful eyes and soulful facial expression.
"Do you love her?"
Charlie's bright eyes told me more than I had wanted to know. That man hadn't taken the ticket.
When Pussy entered the stage anew and began to sing, I looked back to Charlie. In the motion of polishing a beer glass he had frozen in rapt adoration. I could feel my heart beat faster. She was beautiful and I was looking forward more than ever to meeting her in her cloakroom afterwards.
There she was, shimmering like the mother-of-pearl like interior of an oyster in her glistening white evening gown with the enticing cleavage. She sung with a purr in her voice about her Romeo. And I longed to be her Romeo, her Fred Astaire, her James Bond, the Kermit to her Piggy. The man who takes the kids to school, mows the lawn, lends his tools to his friendly neighbour over the white picket fence, makes the best barbeque in the neighbourhood, takes out the trash, fills out the tax declaration, makes love to his wife every Tuesday and Friday night and gets bald and fat with prostate problems during the next 20 years. This reflection sobered me up, fast, and after her song I went to look for Two-Shoes. No sense in delaying the inevitable.
I actually felt nervous when I was asked into Two-shoes' study. I knocked and a guy the size of Texas opened the door. He was clearly there for his physique and not for his intelligence.
"Sorry, that must be a misunderstanding. I'm James Judd, not Peter Gunn."
"No, your gun. Revolver. Pistol. Iron. Shooter." The bodyguard activated his Thesaurus.
"Oh, Betty. No. I left her down with the attendant. And I don't have any other."
"Let him pass." A deep voice from inside interfered.
The man let me pass into the tasteful, dignified interior and sat down to read on in the latest Spiderman comic. I stepped up to Two-shoes. Surprised I noticed the soft melodies of 'Four seasons' by Schubert, or is it Tchaikovsky?, quietly in the background. Two-shoes wore an overall and squinted at a canvas.
Obviously he was trying to paint the fruit basket on his desk. "Hi, step closer. What do you think? I know, I know. I must look a bit strange. Not what you expect when entering the centre of power of the Mahony business empire."
I nodded slowly and carefully. Every cop had heard the story about Two-shoes' fits of fury. "My doctor says I suffer from BMS."
"BMS?" I asked helplessly.
"Busy Manager Syndrome. He says if I'm not careful I end up as a stiff due to a heart stroke. It's the stress."
"Hmh, hmh." I hummed affirmatively.
"The family, you know."
"I heard, too, the Carlettis are trying to take over the South Side."
"Bah! Not that Family. My family. My wife is on an esoteric trip. She wants to have a private concert by Elvis. Can you believe it?!? My daughter has decided to marry some brainless actor and dancer from an off-Broadway show. And my only son and heir, argh, my son becomes the black sheep of the family."
"Yep. He wants to be a COP!"
"That must be really hard. I'm truly sorry for you."
"And then the business. The Cayman banks have dropped the interest again, and then the taxes! They're murderous."
"Taxes?" I asked surprised. That man actually paid taxes like every Joe Regular?
"Money laundry commissions," he explained dryly.
"But let's stop the small talk. What do you want? Some paava-leaves? My personal trainer says it's good for stress reduction. If not, I'm going to let him get reduced."
I took one cautiously. Two-shoes sat with a handful behind his desk.
"It's about Pussy Cat."
"Is she in 'trouble'? I told my girls not to get involved with the customers."
"No, no. It's nothing like that. In fact it's like this: Pussy bought a lottery ticket and now it has been stolen."
"Why? As far as I know the result hasn't been announced yet. Wouldn't this be a bit preliminary?" Two-shoes asked, chewing slowly as a cow.
"Yeah, I thought so, too. But she said she searched the whole cloakroom and her apartment. And it's not there. And Charlie at the bar, Toni, the lamb and you are the only ones who knew."
"Are you implying, that Francis Frederick Two-shoes Mahony, who makes about $130,000 a week for his Family, needs to steal a might-be-a-winner-lottery ticket?"
I started to sweat. My armpits and chest got dark from it. My pulses went through the roof. My left eye lid twitched. I recognised the symptoms. I was scared.
"If…you want to put it like that…it sounds really ridiculous. But Pussy told me she would want to leave and settle down, if it's the jackpot. Start all over. She's pretty good on stage. I figure it's quite a loss for you, if she leaves…I mean, don't you think, when you see it like this, after all, don't you think?" God, I hated to stammer. It always gave away my fear.
Two-shoes looked incredulously at me, then burst into laughter. "Oh, man, listen to this. I don't need Pussy. In two weeks the final exams take place at the School for Dancing and Singing. And after that I can choose among dozens of pretty, good singers and dancers, who unfortunately still aren't good enough for Broadway. Really, if Pussy stays or leaves…a sack of rice toppled over in China couldn't be less important to me."
"Oh, I understand." And I knew I had to end this discussion fast. I needed a cigarette. Now! But the 'please do not smoke-sign' hindered me from pulling out my already again almost empty pack.
"See, I really care about my girls, but not enough to commit a crime for them. My old man always said to me: 'Pumpkin, you can do whatever pleases you and brings in good bucks. But never commit a crime for a woman.' Another paava-leaf? You look like you need one or two."
"No, thanks. I'm still chewing on the first one. They're quite tasty, like lettuce. But back to Pussy's lottery ticket. Do you know Ed Cornheimer?"
Two-shoes Mahony turned to his bodyguard.
"Do we know an Ed Cornheimer?"
"Hmh, isn't he the owner of 'Delicatessen' two blocks down the road, boss?" the bodyguard answered after some heavy thinking.
"No, idiot, that's Sam Feinheimer."
"Oh, all right, boss. Do you want me to kill him, boss?"
"No!…Just keep sitting there and read your Spiderman."
The bodyguard sank back into his dullness. Mahony swung back to me, sighing. "Do you know how difficult it is to find good staff these days? The smart guys work either for the tax office, on Wall Street or the Japanese Foreign Board of Trade."
Being reminded of Velda, I nodded sympathetically. I needed a cigarette. NOW! Two-shoes wasn't a thief of lottery tickets. It just wasn't his style, after all. But I had to cover every possibility. If you eliminate every probable possibility, the most improbable must be the most possible or something like that, my great hero, Inspector Columbo, once said. I bade my goodbye. I was actually quite surprised that I was still able to walk on my own feet. These Paava-leaves must be worth their money.
But that left me with my last possibility. Toni, the shark's lamb. I went backstage for Toni's cloakroom. A stage-hand answered me. "On the left side of Pussy's."
Well, this information turned out to be not as helpful as I had hoped initially, since I neither knew where Pussy's room was. So I just walked on along the corridor, catching bits of conversations.
"Siegfried, for the last time. Tell your overgrown pussy cat to leave my fish alone!" An old man dragged on a leash a big, fat, white Persian cat along.
"Antonio, what's wrong?"
"Something terrible has happened. I just sawed Maria in half. She's dead. And now my coffin number's dead, too."
"Well, why don't you just find another virgin?"
"Please, we're in Metropolis!"
"What about the Monastery of Ste. Helen?"
"Already tried. Their last virgin is five months along."
"To be or not to be…"
Finally I found Toni's cloakroom. The door was open and I knocked on the frame and entered after she smiled at me encouragingly.
The shark in a lamb skin had shed her fleece and sat in a robe in front of a huge mirror with dozens of tiny little light bulbs at its edges.
"Hiya, what can I do for you? An autograph? An offer for a Broadway show? Or a date?"
"I'm afraid neither." I smiled back.
"I'm James Judd and…" I trailed off when she began to pull off her big false jewels.
"Do you mind? That was my last performance for tonight, and all I want right now is to shed that stuff."
"No, I don't mind, if you don't mind. Please carry on. I'm here for Pussy's lottery ticket."
"Have you finally found it? Great! Pussy's already wracked my nerves about that stupid ticket."
"No, in fact, I'm a private investigator and…"
"And Pussy's finally cracked and thinks somebody took it deliberately. So you're here to ask me if I took it…That's nonsense! Why should I?"
Her angry gaze in the mirror focussed again on herself. Abruptly she pulled off her blonde wig. Underneath was short brown hair. A more unusual false blonde.
"There you go. You don't have a motive. If Pussy really got the jackpot, she'd leave and settle down. And I would be the next star in the River Club."
She ripped off her false thick lashes and concentrated on removing the blue contact lenses. Toni was a brown eyed brunette. She picked up. "So I should rather pull my thumbs for her to have her win that jackpot rather than stealing the ticket. Don't you think, too?"
Each and every word was accompanied by the rip off of a finger nail. My eyebrows had constantly risen. Was everything false about that woman? I got my answer faster than I expected. With a flourish, Toni shook off her robe and, look-ma-no-hands, opened her bra to reveal a flat chest.
"Toni!" I shrieked and felt my eyes straining to pop out of their sockets.
"Sorry, pal. No Toni. May I introduce myself? I'm Boris."
"Exactly. Just a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transsylvania."
I fell into the next chair only to see Toni, no, Boris grabbing a huge pot of greasy stuff to remove his make-up.
Toni, the big busted, blue eyed, blonde woman was a flat- chested, brown eyed brown haired man.
By now I had recovered enough to think about the facts. I found them faultless. Boris could only profit from Pussy's retirement from show biz. What should I do now? Charlie, Boris and Two-shoes had absolutely no reason to steal this ticket.
On the other hand, Pussy had searched non-stop everywhere and came up with empty hands. Absentmindedly I said goodbye to Boris, who applied some lighter make-up, and went for Pussy next door.
I entered to find her, like Boris, at her vanity. One of the many lights was flickering. And like this light flickered the solution to this riddle flickered in my mind. Somebody had lied to me all along. And I knew who…
With a start Clark awoke and sat up, heavily breathing. *What a weird dream…must have been Lois' cooking again…*
The sun rises over the skyscrapers of Metropolis. Somewhere the old mystic book gets closed and the lonely candle blown out. For this night…